NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last made an appearance at Gillette Stadium in January 2015, for the AFC Championship Game between the Colts and Patriots. As it turns out, that was also the night that gave us Deflategate, which ultimately resulted in Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension to begin the 2016 season.
Goodell, considered by Patriots fans as the evil mastermind behind the punishment, hasn’t shown his face since in Foxborough — and the absence didn’t go unnoticed in recent weeks, especially when the commissioner made back-to-back appearances at the Georgia Dome to watch the Falcons.
On Wednesday, Goodell said he’s not avoiding Gillette Stadium.
“If I’m invited back to Foxborough, I will come,” he said at his annual Super Bowl news conference, via ESPN.com‘s Mike Reiss. “I have no doubt that if I wanted to come up to a Patriots game and I asked Mr. Kraft, he would welcome me back. That’s up to him.”
This isn’t true, of course. Goodell is the commissioner, and as such, he can attend any game he pleases. Not to worry though; Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has publicly criticized the league’s handling of Deflategate, would gladly welcome Goodell to town.
“I’ve talked to a lot of fans who would love to welcome Roger back to Gillette Stadium,” Kraft said. “If we are fortunate enough to win on Sunday, the kickoff of the  NFL season would present the perfect opportunity.”
So there you go. Should the Patriots beat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Goodell can show up in Foxborough for the season opener to commemorate the team’s fifth Lombardi Trophy.
Earlier this week, Kraft admitted that Deflategate forever changed his relationship with Goodell, the man Kraft helped become commissioner.
“I don’t know if it will ever be the same, but in order to do what is best for the Patriots franchise long-term, I believe it is best to compartmentalize and move on,” Kraft said, via the New York Daily News‘ Gary Myers. “Like our quarterback, I am trying to remain positive and look to the future rather than dwell on the past. As a native New Englander, that’s easier said than done, but I am doing my best to put the matter behind me.”
Meanwhile, Goodell said the situation with the Patriots and their supporters isn’t “awkward at all,” adding: “From our standpoint, we understand fans who are loyal and passionate for a team object and don’t like the outcome. I don’t expect for one second for people to agree with every decision I make or we make as a league. Those are always difficult, sometimes contentious, and sometimes less-than-perfect decisions. But you do them in the best interests in the long-term health of the game and the NFL.”
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Robert Kraft: Patriots fans would love to welcome Roger Goodell to Gillette Stadium